San Diego-based tech startup Cooler Heads has received FDA approval to sell its revolutionary scalp cooling device to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy save their hair. The company achieved the milestone after raising about $1.5 million in venture capital funding.
Cooler Heads’ flagship product Amma is an FDA-cleared device to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy preserve their hair. “Scalp cooling is an effective way for cancer patients to save their hair, but existing methods are prohibitively expensive and difficult to use,” said Cooler Heads CEO Kate Dilligan.
Dilligan is a veteran entrepreneur and cancer survivor who, after spending over $8,000 on cold-cap therapy to keep her own hair during chemo, made it her life’s work to develop an easy-to-use, tech-enabled, less-costly scalp cooling solution.
She said that “cancer patients undergoing chemo are dealing with the hardest challenge one can face; keeping their hair is critical to their mental health, their sense of self, and their recovery process.”
Saving Hair for Chemo Patients
Dilligan said saving one’s hair is not about vanity. “It’s about recognizing yourself in the mirror; it’s about privacy, dignity, and not letting cancer take your identity from you.”
With Cooler Heads’ FDA clearance, Dilligan said that for the first time “saving one’s hair is in reach for all eligible cancer patients undergoing chemo, not just the wealthiest.”
Dilligan launched Cooler Heads in 2018 and found an early champion in San Diego-based tech accelerator Ad Astra, whose founder Allison Long Pettine was impressed by Dilligan’s passion and mission-driven focus.
“Kate’s first-hand knowledge of the problem allowed her to uniquely understand how large the opportunity could be in an otherwise overlooked market,” Pettine said. “Kate’s execution is equally impressive, and she has been able to deliver on every milestone she has set out to achieve, on time and under budget.”
Early Bootstrapping Efforts Pay Off
Cooler Heads went on to raise $1.4 million in seed funding in 2019, led by San Francisco-based Anathem Ventures, whose Managing Partner Crystal McKellar credits Dilligan’s superior tech and early bootstrapping for much of the success of the company.
“Kate built her initial working prototype on her own dime and developed valuable relationships with top cancer treatment centers before she raised a dollar of venture funding,” McKellar said. “Medical device companies typically raise tens, if not hundreds of millions in venture capital to achieve FDA approval. Kate did it with less than $1.5 million.”
McKellar, who joined the Cooler Heads board, added: “In an era of overblown tech copycats, Cooler Heads is proof that unique, idiosyncratic technology companies that deliver tremendous value to their investors still exist.”
On the heels of its FDA clearance, Cooler Heads closed on an oversubscribed $1.5 million funding round from existing venture backers Robin Hood Ventures, Anathem Ventures and Crescent Ridge Partners, and new investors Gaingels, Astia Angels, and Teal Ventures, as well as industry leaders Dr. Stan Marks and Dr. Sandeep Bansal.
Helping Cancer Patients Keep Their Identity
Robin Hood Ventures partner and Cooler Heads board observer Sasha Schrode noted that with the new funding round, “Robin Hood Ventures is excited to help accelerate the commercialization of the revolutionary Cooler Heads cold cap system. Cancer patients are in the fight of their life, and Cooler Heads lessens the pain of combat by helping patients save their hair and keep their identity.”
Cooler Heads has signed multiple commercial partnerships and will begin serving patients in Q1 2022.
Dilligan said that with commercialization, she hopes to get the word out that hair loss is not inevitable, and plans to make Cooler Heads the standard of care for eligible patients who want to avoid this highly visible, public and devastating side effect of chemotherapy.
Cooler Heads has drawn accolades from leading industry participants, was a Top 5 finalist of MedTech Innovator Accelerator, won the 2020 Women Founders Network Fast Pitch and was selected for membership in Stanford’s prestigious StartX community of serial entrepreneurs, industry experts and well-funded growth stage startups.
CEO: Kate Dilligan
Headquarters: San Diego
Notable: The company’s flagship product Amma is easy to use and more affordable than existing cold cap solutions – and does not require a helper or coach.